The Facts on Flossing

girlsmiling_crop2In August of this year, the dental world was rocked by an Associated Press article that declared the benefits of floss to be unproven. Why did this hit the professional oral hygiene advocates so hard? Because it is only half true, and the problem lies in the research, not the act itself.

Much of the current evidence does not utilize a large sample size or examine gum health over a significant amount of time,” the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) announced in response to the AP article fall out.

If the research for the benefits of flossing alone isn’t there, then what do we know? A lot, as it turns out.

The Real Issue

The real issue is biofilm disruption and creating homeostasis so pathogenic microbes can’t survive. Floss is only one tool,” reports the Registered Dental Hygienist Magazine this month. In other words, it is important to get as much bad bacteria out of your mouth as possible, and flossing is one way to do that. Remember, brushing only cleans a part of your teeth–about 60% of what’s there. 

Would you ever wash only 60% of your body in the shower and declare yourself squeaky clean?” asks Dr. William Glaros from Texas on his blog. Of course not. So what do we do about the other 40%?

Fortunately, there is now an arsenal of debris disrupting, plaque-kicking, bio-film blasting (you get the idea) products and tools that you can use in addition to brushing to keep your mouth clean and your teeth decay-free. Read on.

Floss Properly

One of the main problems that hygienists and dentists see daily is that patients are not flossing properly, which is almost akin to not doing it at all. Fortunately, the American Dental Association has a quick video where you can check up on your technique. When done properly, flossing removes the food debris from the sides of the teeth, helping to prevent tooth decay and cavities from forming.

Even with the proper technique, flossing is still not for everyone. Indeed, almost 36% of Americans would rather do an unpleasant activity, like clean the toilet bowl, rather than floss. Sure, this might be because a good number of people don’t do it correctly, but if you do find yourself in this category, here are some great alternatives to conventional flossing that might be your style.

Flossing Alternatives

oral-health-productsInter-dental Brushes – Recent studies on inter-dental brushes are really encouraging, and show that they can be highly effective in inter-dental plaque removal. These brushes are small and compact, available at most drugstores, and easy to use.

Water Picks – Another method gaining a lot of traction recently is the water pick. In fact, new water picks like these are one of the hot items at the upcoming Dental Convention in New York next week. Water picks can be both corded and cordless, and are meant to replicate the high pressure water devices that dentists use in the office to blast away food particles and debris from between your teeth. One recommendation for water pick use, however, is to use it before brushing because the water pressure can wash off the fluoride from your toothpaste, rendering it ineffective.

vitality_electricbrushElectric Toothbrushes – For those opposed to any type of flossing, or for whom flossing is not a daily routine, electric brushes can help to pick up the slack. Electric brushes have been shown to be a good deal better than regular manual brushing at reducing plaque and gingivitis and might just be what you need in between flossing. East Madison Dental hygienist Hillary Willick recommends the Oral B Vitality Electric Toothbrush for newbies because of its effectiveness and affordability (think: excellent holiday gift).

There you have it! The facts about flossing. Now there’s no reason to lie to your hygienist about how often you floss (something that over 21% of Americans admit to doing, by the way!). You can be honest about the technique that works for you, and even ask for some pointers.